John wakes up early on Saturday mornings. He walks outside to rake the coals in the oven and check the doughs that have been proofing overnight. Soon, he’ll shape the wet, whole-grain doughs, bake them hot into crusty bread, and head across the street to the market. Local grains, stone-milled flour, wood-fired baking. Living and working on a farm. Selling bread at a farmer’s market. This vision has been years in the making.
In 2016, John set out with the goal of opening a family food business. He dreamt of a neighborhood sandwich shop, bakery, or pasta restaurant. Maeve moved to Baltimore to begin nursing school, and John followed. He took his first food job as a cook at Parts and Labor, a whole-animal butcher shop and seasonal, hearth restaurant. Under the guidance of great chefs, John learned the basics of connecting with farmers, cooking with the seasons, using the whole harvest, and making flavorful food.
John was interested in learning further about the ingredients he was cooking with. Maeve wanted to spend time outdoors when she wasn’t working at the hospital. That year, she happened to be introduced to farmers Attila Agoston and Shawna DeWitt at Mountain View Farm, an organic vegetable farm in Loudoun County. After spending more and more time volunteering at Mountain View, we knew this was a special place and John applied to join the crew. In 2018, John spent the season as a farm intern under Shawna and Attila. Maeve took time from nursing each week to help out on the farm. It turned out to be a magical season! We fell in love with the manual labor, the fresh air, working outside, and being a part of the farmers market scene.
(L) Maeve in the summer squash patch. (R) John harvesting opal basil at Mountain View Farm, 2018.
Towards the end of the farm season, a recently-opened bakery joined one of the farmers markets Mountain View was attending. We enjoyed trading vegetables for their bread. One evening, the owner, Jonathan, mentioned he might be looking for some baking help. John had a feeling this was the place to go next.
John spent the next 3 plus years at Seylou Bakery & Mill under the mentorship of Head Baker and Owner, Jonathan Bethany. Seylou was, and still is, at the forefront of a new style of baking. Instead of buying roller-milled white flour, Seylou buys whole grains from regenerative farmers in the region, mills all of their own flour onsite, and keeps the flour whole, never sifting. Seylou bakes with a diversity of grains to make nourishing and delicious 100% whole-grain breads and pastries.
It made for a special and singular place to learn the craft of bread baking. John was quickly immersed in all things bread: learning how to operate a stonemill, fire a masonry oven, mix dough, shape a loaf, use a peel, score with a lame, adjust formulas, and source directly from local farms. Over the years, John was given more and more responsibility and room for experimentation. He gained valuable experience baking with local grains and feeling their changes from farmer to farmer, field to field, and harvest to harvest. He gained confidence leading a small team. John fell in love with the work and now had a craft.
(L) Early morning Pain au Levain shaping. (R) Horse Bread at SEYLOU Bakery & Mill.
In the fall of 2021, we slowly started to think about a project of our own. We asked Casey Gustawarow (one of Seylou’s grain growers) and Stacey Carlberg of Fireside Farm for advice on starting a business, and they mentioned there was an opening for a bread baker at their farmer’s market. It felt like the right time and place to take the leap.
In March of 2022, we moved out to Loudoun County and started our bakery, Meadow Bread. We bought a wood-fired oven, wooden mixing troughs, some bags of grain, and got to work. Since then, we’ve been farming during the week, first at Fireside and now Moutoux Orchard, and baking for a Saturday Farmers Market. It’s a great joy be a part of an inspiring farming community and to bake bread each week for our customers.
(Clockwise) Farmers market stand. Baking at Wheatland Spring. At our baby shower, October 2022.
A special thanks to John’s mentors along the way: Bryan McGlory, Gerald Addison, Alex Bobadilla, George Marsh, Opie Crooks, Andrew Partridge, Attila Agoston, Shawna Dewitt, Jonathan Bethony, Jessica Azeez, Charbel Abrache, Joe Kim, Nicolas Melas, Casey Gustawarow, and Stacey Carlberg.